Several non-profit environmental organizations are trying to counter the adverse effects of climate change. To finance their activities, they require donations. However, in today's society the number of people who donate to environmental organizations is decreasing, which is creating a funding gap. If organizations are to be able to continue their work, the number of donations must increase.
The aim of this study is to determine how individuals' intentions to donate to an environmental organization can be increased. To this end, the research question is as follows: To what extent does a potential donor's social distance to the victims of climate change portrayed in fund-raising campaigns affect his or her intention to make a donation? In this context, social distance is the extent to which people feel they are in the same social group (i.e., in-group) or another social group (i.e., out-group) in relation to climate change victims.
The research question is answered through an experiment that entails distributing an online questionnaire to respondents. These respondents are randomly divided into two conditions (namely large and small social distance). Based on their classification, they are then asked to comment on a different image from a fund-raising campaign. The responses received show that feeling a large social distance leads to more donation intentions that feeling a small social distance. These results indicate that social distance does have an impact on donation intentions.
On this basis, it is recommended that environmental groups portray a significant social distance in fund-raising campaigns for their climate change activities. Further research could be undertaken to identify other factors it would be helpful for such organizations to bear in mind when selecting the best images for such campaigns.